In what may have been a surprise to some, Vegas bettors quickly established the 4-4 Huskies as 1.5 point favorites over 7-1 Utah. So while we may talk about the potential of Washington "upsetting" Utah, the reality is the betting public expects the Huskies to win. So what do we think? Read on...
Despite what their records might suggest, Washington and Utah are much more closely matched than many might think. Both feature tough, physical defenses. Both have streaky quarterbacks and like to lean on their running game as a steadying influence. It's not a perfect comparison of course - while Utah's defense is good and they have a history of being very good, Washington is fielding the best defense in the conference this year. And while the Huskies were a run-heavy team last year, they have been more interested in getting the passing game going this year, and the UW run game has not been as productive at Utah's.
You all know I'm a fan of metrics like FEI and S&P, and both like the Huskies. FEI sees a closely matched game, while S&P actually gives the Huskies a 63% chance of winning and a nearly 6 point edge. What the numbers can't really measure from game to game is the emotional state of each team. To me, a big key here is how the Huskies respond after their best game of the season and how Utah responds to what they almost certainly will view as disrespect from the public in being listed as underdogs in this game.
Expecting the Husky offense to play as they did last week is probably far too optimistic - this Utah defense is much better than Arizona's, and you have to expect some measure of inconsistency from this young Husky offense. I won't be surprised if they struggle to sustain drives or pick up many explosive plays. So the key will be how well Washington's defense can contain the Utes, who wins the turnover battle and which team has the edge in special teams. I'm concerned that Utah's punter tips the field position battle in what will likely be a close, back and forth defensive game. On the other hand, it feels like both Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher are due to bust some big plays on special teams. I also think the Huskies are due for some good luck when it comes to fumbles - currently they have recovered only 4 of the 11 fumbles they've forced. Finally, I like our defense to slow down Devontae Booker and harass Travis Wilson into mistakes.
It won't be pretty, but I think the Huskies slog their way to a hard-fought win: UW 17, Utah 13
We will see very early on that Utah's defense is light year's ahead of Arizona's. The Husky offense will not look like it did last Saturday, but that won't be a death sentence, because Utah's offense won't be able to do much against Washington's defense either. This one will be a classic slugfest that is tight throughout and the Utes will gain the slightest advantages late in the game with a veteran offensive line, running back and quarterback who will give them enough to eek out the win. Utah 20, Washington 17
When I first looked at the Vegas line and it was being reported that the Huskies were favored, I thought that it was an error. Overall, the Huskies are 4-4 while Utah is 7-1 and lead the South Division of the Pac 12. It appears that UW swayed oddsmakers based on its dominating performance of Arizona on Halloween night. Utah beat OSU last week but showed it could be beat after losing to USC in LA two weeks ago. But it still hard to shake the absolutely stunning performance it put on against the Ducks in Eugene. I believe the game will come down to whether Jake Browning and the offense can continue its roll it started in the Arizona game. It will have a better defense to go up against. Look out for linebackers Gionni Paul, Jared Norris, Dominque Hatfield (no, really especially if he says he wants to sell you an XBox) and the rest of the Utah defense to stop the Huskies. UW 22, Utah 16
Brad Johnson UW:
On both sides of the field, the defenses have pretty significant advantages over the offenses. On a rainy and blustery night, it looks like it's going to be tough for either offense to score a lot of points.
I think the Huskies defense is up to the task here, and that they'll give the offense the ball once or twice on the cusp of scoring position. And I think the offense will put it together on at least one drive, as they've done in just about every game all season.
For fans of offense, this isn't going to be pretty. I like watching good defense, so I'm looking forward to this.
More field goals than touchdowns, but the Huskies pull out a 16-14 win as the defense turns back a late Utah drive around midfield.
Did Washington's offense turn a corner last week against Arizona? The 49 point outburst is encouraging, but the Huskies now face a defense just about as stiff as their own when the Utes roll into town on Saturday. In 8 games this year, the Husky defense has answered the bell and then some. I expect that to continue against Utah's offense and hold them to under 20 points. Can the Huskies score more than 20? Honestly I haven't seen enough yet to say they can. I think Jake Browning is ready to answer the call, but I don't get the feeling the offensive line is going to have a good day against a tough Utah front seven, with perhaps the best defensive line in the conference. I think the UW defense does its thing like it has all season but the offense can't make the plays in the red zone when needed. I hate picking a loss, but Utah 16, Washington 13.
I wrote about this matchup in my Pac12 picks write up earlier this week. To me, this game is going to come down to whichever team is able to create an extra opportunity or two with regards to an extra possession or a field position flip.
Utah owns a few critical advantages in this regard. First, they are a much more veteran club who boast more physically developed performers in key positions in the defensive front seven and across special teams. They are very accomplished in the kicking game with a kicking battery that is second to none in the nation.
On the flip side, UW has a few advantages of their own. The UW secondary is the most accomplished unit across either defense in generating turnovers. They happen to be playing a Utah QB in Travis Wilson who is a feast or famine kind of guy who has struggled mightily on the road over much of his career. In addition, UW boasts the more explosive group of players such as Dwayne Washington, Budda Baker, Chico McClatcher and Myles Gaskin. This isn't to say that Utah doesn't have any - they certainly do (I LOVE true frost Brit Covey) - it's just that UW has more available.
I don't think it will be enough. In the elements in what looks like it will be a tough, physical game, I like the team with more upperclassmen along the LOS. Utah 23, UW 17